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Mountford-Sheard Collection

 Charles P. Mountford 
 Pitjantjatjara childrens drawing PRG 1218 122 1 1 

Australian Memory of the World Register 2008

Nomination by the State Library of South Australia

Mountford-Sheard Collection PRG 1218

The Mountford-Sheard Collection holds the wealth of material gathered by self-taught South Australian ethnographer CP Mountford (1890-1976) during a career spanning the 1930s to the 1960s. Included are field notebooks and journals, photographic images, motion pictures, sound recordings, artworks, correspondence and published works.

The collection holds items of great cultural significance to many Aboriginal communities in Australia, most particularly those in Central Australia, the Flinders Ranges, Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. Access restrictions apply due to the large volume of secret/sacred information recorded.

The material produced by Mountford is significant because it is both respectful and empathetic to the Aboriginal people it depicts. Although peppered with the vernacular and attitudes of the time in which he lived and worked, Mountford's writing, and more tellingly his photographs, are indicative of his belief that Aboriginal life was richer and more complex than most white Australians conceded.

By recording and photographing people, places and stories in meticulous detail, Mountford created a rich resource of cultural, spiritual and historical information that is important to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

His collection is sought after and accessed by Aboriginal communities today, as a means of reintroducing, reviving, or reinforcing elements of their history and culture that may have been lost through the process of travel, time, separation or intervention. In addition, his archives document the life and work of ethnographers and anthropologists in the mid-twentieth century.

During the late 1940s, Mr Harold L Sheard (1890-1975) began assembling Mountford's private archive of expedition records, scientific and published works, and pictorial material with Mountford's cooperation. Sheard sought a suitable repository for the collection, and with the collaboration of Mr Hedley C Brideson, State Librarian at the time, the collection was donated to the State Library of South Australia by Sheard and Mountford in 1957, and was supplemented by a further collection of materials from Mountford in 1970.

Selected items:



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